01 SES 07 C, Effects of Educational Research on Teaching
Everyone of us acts on the basis of her/his proper beliefs, and teachers constitute by no means an exception to this rule (Hofer, 2002). These beliefs can be based either on sound or weak arguments as much as on emotional, affective reasons (Pehkonen & Pietilä, 2003; Pajares, 1992).
At present, being a teacher is becoming a more and more demanding and complex task (Darling-Hammond, 2009; Ostinelli, 2009). In this framework, a professionalism grounded firmly on scientific knowledge can be more successful in dealing with educational issues than one based mostly on intuitive beliefs (Hargreaves, 2007). This argument suggests that the scientific foundation of teaching is a key component of quality in schools. Nevertheless, it is also commonly known that the effects of educational research on actual teaching in classrooms are rather limited (Fullan & Hargreaves, 1996 ; Tyack & Cuban, 1995 ; Berry & Bourisaw, 1996 ; Hess, 1998; Kaestle, 1993).
The purpose of this paper is to further investigate some evidences emerged from a previous exploratory study, presented at the Eera-Ecer’s 2011 conference in Berlin (Teaching, between myths and research). This inquiry was performed through the administration of an on-line questionnaire translated in teachers’ respective languages. It included some items asking the teachers for their knowledge and for the use of some well-known methodologies (e.g.: formative evaluation, cooperative learning, scaffolding) and their agreement on a number of statements – representing either some myths or some more checked assertions, sustained by research evidence – like for instance “For a weak pupil, flunking can be beneficial to his/her learning”. The information gathered through this questionnaire can give some indications on teachers’ paradigms and on their practice inside the classroom. The data were analyzed through an analysis of variance (ANOVA).
The initial sample was composed by teachers teaching in two Swiss schools and teachers participating spontaneously to a Ph. D. course at the University of Toronto, Canada. The results showed the Canadian and the Swiss group to be significantly statistically different on various aspects.
These differences were mainly related to teaching paradigm, that showed to be by far more research oriented for the Canadian group, if compared with the Swiss one, who showed to the utmost – and only in some cases – the use of some innovative methodologies. From this study it resulted also that motivation for innovation can play a quite important role in the development of extended forms of teacher professionalism. These results bring into question the effectiveness of in-service courses, in particular when they are offered without consideration of teachers’ needs.
An extension of the study was performed during 2012 and added to the data the results coming either from a school and from a group of teachers regularly participating to in-service courses, both from Italy. The results were presented at ICSEI 2013 Congress in Santiago, and confirmed the initial trends. Indeed, both the Canadians and the Italians participating to formative courses showed a statistically significant difference in terms of paradigm, if compared with “standard” Swiss and Italian teachers.
In order to check if these evidences can be further confirmed on a more extended basis of data and educational cultures, some schools from other countries (Chile, Uruguay, France) were asked to participate and accepted. At present, the sample is composed by 20 schools plus the Canadians and the Italians taking part to formative courses. Talks are in course with Finland, Brazil and Puerto Rico, so it is possible that the sample will grow during the next months.
Berry, S., Bourisaw, D. (1996) From Dinosaurs to Decision-making. Thrust for Educational Leadership. 5, 22, 3. Darling-Hammond, L. (2009): Teaching and the Change Wars: The Professionalism Hypothesis. In A. Hargreaves, M. Fullan (Eds.) Change Wars. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Fullan, M., Hargreaves, A. (1996) What’s Worth Fighting for in Your School. (New York: Teachers College Press) Hargreaves, D. (2007) Teaching as a Research-based Profession: Possibilities and Prospects. In M. Hammersley (Ed.) Educational Research and Evidence-based Practice. London: Sage Hofer, B. (2002) Personal Epistemology as a Psychological and Educational Construct: An Introduction. In B. Hofer, P. Pintrich (Eds.) Personal Epistemology: The Psychology of Beliefs. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Kaestle, C. (1993) The Awful Reputation of Educational Research. Educational Researcher, 22, 1, 23-31 Ostinelli, G. (2009) Teacher Education in Italy, Germany, England, Sweden and Finland. European Journal of Education, 44, 2, 291-308 Pajares, F. (1992) Teachers’ Beliefs and Educational Research: Cleaning Up a Messy Construct. Review of Educational Research, 62, 3, p. 307-332 Pekhonen, E., Pietilä, A. (2003) On Relationships between Beliefs and Knowledge in Mathematics Education. European Research in Mathematics Education, III, p. 1-6 Tyack, D., Cuban, L. (1995) Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press)
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